The French Lieutenant's Woman | Chicago Reader

The French Lieutenant's Woman

Tasteful, dull, and nearly dead, with all the actors turned into buglike caricatures under the gaze of Karel Reisz's distorting, entrapping wide-angle lens. The film has been praised for its ingenious solution to the dual-ending problem posed by John Fowles's novel, yet the cleverness of the solution so dominates the structure that the inherent meanings of the material are reduced for it: the film becomes little more than a tony literary game, at best a retake on the old theme of the actor's confusion of art and life. And the dual story itself seems a rather simple, inelegant thing, particularly when compared to the kind of narrative experiments conducted 10 or 15 years earlier—in the films of Resnais, Lester's Petulia, even Ken Russell's The Boy Friend, which this film comes to resemble to an unholy degree. With Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons (1981).

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